COLUMBUS, Ga. — Aubrey Garrett took a good look at her wrist before she took her final at-bat against Monticello in Social Circle’s second game in the Columbus portion of the Class AA state tournament Friday.
On her wrist was an index card encased by a black wristband. On that card, Garrett wrote the words “my job” in the upper lefthand corner, and her first name, “Aubrey” on the opposite side. Underneath was the following message:
“My job is to provide my team with unconditional support, and to do whatever I can to help get that ring.”
Then below that, sort of as an addendum, was written: “Keep a positive attitude.”
Those messages would ultimately serve as a foreshadowing to how Garrett, Social Circle’s sophomore designated player, would rise to the occasion and send the Lady Redskins to their next step on the journey for a state championship.
Garrett’s three-run, walk-off homer in the bottom of the seventh inning gave Social Circle an 8-5 win over Region 8-AA rival Monticello, while propelling it to a next-round matchup with another region foe in Banks County Saturday morning at 9 a.m.
And while the victory for the Lady Redskins bunch as a whole was sweet, the way it happened for Garrett was even sweeter.
“Aubrey’s been waiting all year to get into the lineup, and she’s really battled, and she’s had to grow up very quickly,” said Social Circle coach Audra Thomas. “She said to me, ‘Coach, can I be the DP? I want to be in that spot,’ and it’s really paid off for her.”
Garrett said her confidence welled up as the eventual home run pitch came toward her at the plate.
“I knew it was out when I hit it,” she said. “I felt it. Just before I stepped into the box, I looked at my wristband and it reminded me what my job was, so I just did it. It’s been really hard to get where I am because we have so much talent, but I’ve really worked hard, and I’m really proud of how far I’ve come and we’ve come as a team.”
Social Circle senior Shelby Harpe picked up the win inside the circle, pitching her second straight complete game in Columbus. She did so while weathering a couple of Monticello storms, putting her team in position to win it in the last frame.
Harpe’s first, and perhaps most ominous looking jam, came in the top of the second when Monticello had the bases juiced with two outs, up 1-0, and Harpe forced a ground ball for an easy out to get the Lady Redskins out of the inning without further damage.
Social Circle would capitalize in the bottom frame when Presleigh Sorrow got things started with a single, followed by Peyton Sorrow’s single to left. Harpe then smacked a RBI triple followed by Emma Swider’s RBI single to give the ‘Skins a 3-1 lead.
Monticello chopped it back to 3-2 with a lead-off solo homer in the top of the third inning. The Hurricanes added two more in the top of the fourth to tie things at 3. It wasn’t until the bottom of the sixth frame that Social Circle’s bats would get hot again.
It started with Alexa Wykoff’s lead-off single — a chopper up the middle — that paved the way for Garrett’s double and Presleigh Sorrow’s single. All of this set the stage for Emily Jacobson’s RBI single that stretched Social Circle’s lead back to a 5-3 advantage.
Monticello wouldn’t go quietly, however, as a lead-off solo shot over center pulled the ‘Canes to within one before they’d eventually tie it up in the top of the seventh.
In the final frame, Jessica Owens smacked a single down the third base line, followed by sophomore catcher Lexi Atkinson’s single on a bunt and a Wykoff single that set the stage for Garrett’s late-game heroics that allowed Harpe to finally breathe a sigh of relief.
“My sophomore,” Harpe exclaimed. “I needed that (home run) from here. There were girls on bases, and at first I was like, ‘This is so stressful,’ but then it was like, ‘Oh, wait. Aubrey’s up to bat. Those were my exact words.”
Social Circle’s win over Monticello came a day later than originally scheduled. The Redskins defeated Jeff Davis 12-4 on Thursday afternoon in their first Columbus game, and were scheduled to face Monticello at 9 p.m. Thursday night before rain in the area canceled the remaining slate of games, and delayed Friday’s start by two hours.
Now Social Circle (17-11) will face Banks County (27-8) at 9 a.m. Saturday morning. The ‘Skins went 3-1 against Banks during the regular season and region tournament with its only loss to the Lady Leopards coming in a 7-3 setback in game two of the best-of-three region tournament series.
“That’s another one of our big ones in the region,” Thomas said. “It’s always a tough game when we play Banks County.”
Harpe says playing familiar teams in the state tournament can be both a good and challenging thing at the same time.
“We’re more confident playing teams we’ve played before,” Harpe said. “But I think those teams are just as confident. And I’ve pitched to each of these teams more than once, so it’s a little more stressful on the mound, because they’ve already seen me multiple times, so they know what I’m throwing. But if I throw like me — and this is what my coaches always tell me, which gives me confidence — if I throw like me, no one can hit me.”
Thomas was, indeed, high on her senior pitcher who also had a solid outing in the circle Thursday against Jeff Davis, as well as coming up with a couple of clutch hits — including a solo homer in the top of the fourth.
“Shelby’s such a great athlete,” Thomas said. “She’s one of the best athletes to come through Walton County and even the state of Georgia in my opinion. In both those games, even in the tough moments, she just did what she did as a senior. She bowed her neck, got tough and showed her team what it is to do her job.”
Thomas didn’t express any concern about fatigue for her ace pitcher going forward, although Social Circle could end up playing as many as three more games if it is to win a state crown.
“She’ll be fine,” Thomas said. “She’s a baller. Like I said, that kid’s one of the best athletes I’ve ever coached in my life.”
And Harpe has no shortage of confidence, either.
“Knowing my coach feels that away about me, it makes me feel strong, like we can do it. Like if I’m there, they’re there,” Harpe said. “It’s awesome. I’ve been waiting for this for four years now. It feels great. I’ve expected it every year. I feel like we’re the best team here, and no one can beat us except for us.”
*Check in regularly to covnews.com for coverage of Social Circle’s Saturday state tournament games.